In the world in which we live there are many, many different concepts of salvation. Do a search on Google and you will get 4,500,000 “hits” for “plan of salvation.” Check into some of these and it will become evident that some view the plan of salvation as a very simple thing and for others it is a very complicated matter. Look at images and diagrams and one will find everything from simple stair-steps to a Rube Goldberg kind of diagram of what is conceived as God’s plan for man’s salvation.
Some of these are illustrated by the following …
Plan of Salvation #1 – collect all the passages on salvation, use logic to get the plan of salvation.
Plan of Salvation #2 – just believe and say the sinner’s prayer.
Plan of Salvation #3 – just pray and receive Christ.
Plan of Salvation #4 – sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.
The concept behind all these seems to be on man following some “plan” or “steps” that lead to salvation. In none that I looked at was there much more than passing notice of what God has done – what he planned and did to make man’s salvation possible. This, I believe, is a major failing that has had adverse effects on what is practiced as Christianity today.
In order to fully appreciate what God’s plan for the salvation of man is, we really must understand that it originated in the mind of God before creation (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Pet 1:18-20). God in his omniscience – his “all-knowing-ness” – had a plan in place for man’s redemption before man was ever created and before he ever sinned. Little by little as time went on both the need for salvation and the shape of that plan began to be revealed.
The need for the plan was, of course, occasioned by the sin of man in the garden of Eden and by the sin of every human since – with the only exception being Jesus who did no sin. Satan seduced the woman, she ate of the forbidden fruit, gave it to her husband and he ate. God had told them that in the day they ate of this fruit of the knowledge of good and evil they would die. Satan added one word to God’s promise and reversed the meaning of it. God had said, “You shall surely die,” and Satan added the little word “not.”
That day Adam and Eve were separated by their sin from God the source of life and began the slow process of dying physically. Every person since then has become separated from God by their own sins like our first parents and destined for the grave just as they.
When God addressed the serpent following the transgression of Adam and Eve, he made a promise …
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15).
The word “offspring” (“seed,” KJV), is singular in number and masculine in gender. Thus it has in view a single man who would fulfill this prophecy.
We need to understand also just what was lost when man transgressed in the garden. It was not just man being estranged from God. That was certainly the worst of it. Man was created to bear the image of God, to reflect his glory and to tend to God’s good creation. As a result of Eve being led into sinning by the serpent, she would have to endure multiplied pain in childbearing. There would be conflict between her and her husband. Her desire would be against him and he would rule or dominate her – a perpetual “battle of the sexes” instead of harmony and mutuality.
This place God created in which to live with man was despoiled. Everything in creation was touched and tainted by sin. The ground was cursed for man’s sake. What had been the pleasant work of cooperation with God’s purpose in furthering and enhancing God’s creation now became a battle against creation. Man would have to earn his livelihood by toil and sweat as he fought against the thorns and thistles that competed against the nourishing plants they were intended to eat.
What are the most boring parts of the Bible? The genealogies, right? Even these are telling us of the development of God’s plan for the redemption he had in store for the human race. They show how God selected one line of people from Adam all down through the centuries through which the Redeemer would come. These show that there were, in fact, two lines of humanity. In one line were the ones who “call on the name of the Lord.” In the other are the ones who were devoted to their own interests.
Later God made a promise to Abram (Abraham) that…“in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). This was another promise that related to his plan that would be revealed at a later time. Paul lets us know that this promise was …“referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16).
God made known through types – where a person, things or events would foreshadow something of the character, life and actions of the Savior. Moses was a type of Christ inasmuch as he delivered God’s people from Egyptian bondage into the freedom in which they could devote themselves to the work and worship of God. In foretelling of the Christ, God told Moses that he would raise up a prophet like himself and his people would listen to him as his spokesman. Joseph was a type of Christ because he saved his people from death by famine. David was a type of Christ as he was a man after God’s own heart and sat upon God’s throne ruling over God’s people and a conqueror over the enemies of God’s people.
Throughout the Old Testament there are prophecies of the coming One. There are numerous Psalms that foretell of his character, his work, his rejection, his suffering, death, burial and resurrection. Isaiah in particular in the “servant songs” gives the most detailed prophecies of the one who was to come and restore the things that had been lost due to sin. He would “establish justice in the earth,” and would be a light for the nations so that God’s salvation would reach the ends of the earth. He would endure shame and be used spitefully. The 53rd is the most familiar of these songs. This is the passage the Ethiopian was reading when the evangelist Philip met him and rode along in his chariot while teaching him about Jesus. (Isa. 42:2-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 53).
All along through these centuries God was directing the affairs of men and nations to bring about circumstances that would facilitate the arrival of the promised Messiah and then for the spreading of the gospel throughout the world. He raised nations up to serve his purpose and when they had done so, he judged them for their wickedness and overthrew them. All of it was looking forward to the coming of the One whom he had promised, the offspring of the woman, Genesis 3:15 the offspring of Abraham.
That plan is focused in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He fulfilled every prophecy. He proved by his life, his teaching, his miracles, his death, burial and resurrection that he was the Son of God. His story is told in four different accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. People in his day got to see him “up-close-and-personal” and have told us about him so we can come to know him in an intimate way as well. Through their record of his life we get to “walk” with him through the Galilean hills, “hear” him teach on the mountainside, “watch” him feed the hungry, heal the lame, restore sight the blind, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons and lead multitudes to a fuller understanding of what the heavenly Father is like because he is the “express image of his person.”
If we think this grand plan – originated in the mind of God before creation, promised and prophesied, nurtured and developed, directed and brought to its culmination through the suffering and death of his Son – can be adequately comprehended through some simplistic formula or ritual, we really don’t understand anything at all about God!
All this is what we should think of when we think “plan of salvation.” Jesus didn’t die to give us “four spiritual laws” or a “five finger” plan of salvation, a sinner’s prayer of to simply ask Jesus into our life. No, the plan of salvation and the conversion God is seeking to lead us to involves a bit more than that.
We will think more about this tomorrow …